2014: The Law Cloud Poised for Dramatic Growth
A study of small law firm attorneys and their use, perceptions and
predictions for cloud technology in the legal industry
The law cloud is poised for mass adoption, despite reservations. While attorneys in small law firms cite security
concerns – just 41% believe confidential data stored in the cloud is safe; most report being more likely to adopt the
cloud in 2014. A majority of individual lawyers (50.2%) said they are more likely use the cloud next year. Firm-wide,
the results were more dramatic – 72.4% say their firm is more likely to use the cloud in 2014.
Current use of cloud-based tools in law rises dramatically. Attorney use of cloud tools in small law firms suggests
adoption has already seen a significant uptick. Roughly, 40% of attorneys say they are already using the cloud, which
is nearly 10% higher than previous industry studies.
Behind security, ethics tops the charts as the most significant barrier to adoption. Ethics ranked the second
highest, trailing only security concerns, among the top five barriers. Most concerns center on ownership and positive
control over data stored in the cloud.
Hacking scandals and data leaks breed concern for cloud security. Most respondents are unsure of cloud security:
59.2% said the cloud was not secure, they were unsure, or that security depended on other factors. While just nine
percent explicitly said ―no‖ the cloud was not secure, when asked why in an opened ended question, some cited the
NSA controversy related to Edward Snowden or government snooping explicitly.
Nearly one in four employees use cloud tools without the law firm’s knowledge. A significant number of
respondents – 23.7% – say they believe law firms employees are already using cloud tools without the law firm’s
knowledge or approval.
Will the cloud eclipse premise-based solutions in five years? Nearly 40% of respondents said they believe cloudbased tools will eclipse premised based tools in 3-5 years. An additional 34.1% believe a cloud eclipse of premisedbased solutions will take place but will require five or more years.
The largest benefit of the cloud for attorneys is mobility or freedom of access. Lawyers in small law firms largely
say the top benefits of the cloud is mobility and ability to access data from anywhere (45.2%). Disaster recovery and
backup followed in as a close second with 40.5%. Analysis of text from 254 cloud definitions offered by respondents in
an open-ended question shows the words ―storage‖ and ―access‖ are used to describe the cloud. The tag cloud
analysis nearly spells a complete sentence: the ―ability to access your computer.‖
Ease-of-Use is Simply Expected in Cloud-based Products
Freedom of access
Attorneys in small law firms clearly believe the largest benefits of cloud
technology rests in mobility and data back-up. The promise of the cloud
is the ability to access data from anywhere, at anytime, and from any
Surprisingly, ease-of-use ranked a distant third. Our analysis of the data
and market trends suggests the influence of the
consumerization of IT. Technology from smart phones to tablet
computers has merely made elegant simplicity an expectation. Ease-ofuse is a minimum barrier to entry for cloud adoption.
Unconcerned over costs
Predictable costs, also ranked fairly low, which is equally surprising
given cloud services often run on a subscription model and relieve law
firms from the burden of maintaining IT infrastructure and the associated
N = 279
Security and Ethics Top the List of Significant Barriers
Top 5 barriers to cloud adoption
Attorneys in small law firms graded the following as the most significant
barriers to cloud adoption:
Security or confidentiality of data
Uncertainty of stored data location
Cost to switch services
In aggregate, all of these factors are interrelated to include ethics and
where data is stored. Attorneys need assurances their data is safe and
that they retain complete ownership regardless of where it is stored.
Such concerns underscore the importance of carefully examining the
terms of service of any cloud-based tool and selecting vendors with a
track record of trust. In the 2013 ABA Tech Survey, just 44% of
Less concern for change management
Employee buy-in ranked rather low comparatively suggesting a) cloud
tools are perceived as easy to use b) a mainstream comfort with cloud
technology or c) small law firms stakeholders see the value in and are
determined to use cloud-based tools.
N = 279
Confidence in Security on the Fence
Is the cloud secure?
Most attorneys in small law firms – about 41% – believe the cloud is
secure. By contrast, just 9% believe it is unsecure. Those that said the
cloud is not secure plainly cited government snooping as a major
concern which isn’t surprising given the vast media coverage stemming
from Edward Snowden’s leak of classified NSA documents.
industry. Many tools, especially those provided by vendors catering to
the legal market bring industrial strength security that is difficult to
independently match in a small law firm.
N = 279
In the middle of security
More than one-third – 35.5% – simply were not sure if the cloud is
secure. Despite the maturity of such technologies, we believe this is
reflective of how relatively new cloud-based tools are in the legal
Why Do You Believe the Cloud Isn’t Secure?
In their own words
For those that answered ―no‖ we asked why they
believed the cloud was unsecure. The word cloud
nearby aggregates the words in the most common
answers and a representative sample of responses
are included below. N = 25
The size of the words indicate how often respondents mentioned these words in an
Research Suggest Lawyers are Warming up to the Cloud
Who is using the cloud today?
A majority of respondents – nearly 56% – said they are not using cloud
tools while about 40% say they are using the cloud.
from three years ago, after a dip between 2010 and 2011.
N = 279
When compared to other surveys, this suggests a dramatic uptick in
cloud adoption. For example, the 2013 ABA Tech Survey found that
thirty-one percent of respondents reported using cloud-based or SaaS
software. That was up 11 percent from four years ago and nearly double
Document Management and Backup the most Popular
Where the cloud currently being used
Of the approximately 40% of respondents who said they were currently
using the cloud, applications related to storage and back up were by far
the most popular.
Sixty percent of respondents said they used the cloud for document
storage or management, while 56.4% said they used the cloud for back
up and disaster recovery.
Email followed in a close third with 53.6% and surprisingly, given the
extensive media attention around such services, file sharing ranked
fourth with just 46.4%
N = 110
Lawyers are More Likely to use the Cloud, Despite Reservations
Cautious and Optimistic
While attorneys at small law firms have
reservations about the cloud, they report being
more likely to use cloud-based services in the next
A majority – 50.2% – said they are more likely to
use the cloud, while just 3.6% said they are less
likely to use the cloud.
It’s important to note this question was aimed at
the individual attorney and as we’ll see in the data
that follows, lawyers are even more optimistic
about their firms likeliness to use the cloud in 2014.
N = 279
Cloud Use in Law Firms Poised for Rapid Adoption
More firms embracing the cloud
In comparison to the question aimed at individual
attorneys, when asked if their law firm was more or
less likely to use the cloud, respondents answered
with a resounding ―yes‖ with 72.4% saying they are
more likely to use a cloud service next year.
This data mirrors findings in other surveys, for
example the 2013 ILTA/Inside Legal Technology
Survey found ―70% of all respondents have either
added cloud computing to their IT roadmap or are
currently using or implementing a cloud solution.‖
N = 279
One in Four Employees Use the Cloud Without Permission
Are employees using the cloud anyway?
Nearly a quarter, or one in every four employees, are using cloud
services without law firm knowledge or approval. This may relate to why
change management and employee buy-in ranked so low in the question
on barriers to cloud adoptions – attorneys are aware that a significant
portion employees are already using the cloud.
What are the risks?
This comes with risks, because it begs the question, what are employees
using the cloud for? If attorneys are not checking the terms of service
and privacy policies of the services they use, then it’s reasonable to
believe their employees are not either. This leads us back to why ethical
concerns ranked so highly on barriers to adoption.
Certainly the cloud presents an opportunity for small law firms, however
careful review of technologies that adhere to the ethical standards
attorneys need should be a matter of policy and enforced rigorously.
N = 279
Cloud to Eclipse Premise-based Solutions in 5 Years
A 5 Year Cloud Window?
Most respondents – 38.7% – said they believed legal cloud tools will
overtake premise based legal solutions in 3-5 years. The next highest
ratings – 34.1% – said it would take 5 or more years and 15.4% believed
this would happen in just three years.
This finding has similarities with a 2012 study by Legal IT Professionals
which found, ―57% predicting that it will overtake on-premise computing
within five years and 81% within ten years.‖
Interestingly, when the data is depicted in a line graph, the shape is
amazingly similar to technology research firm Gartner, Inc.’s Hype Cycle
interpretations, which visually forecasts the evolution and maturity of new
N = 279
Costs of Cloud Computing is Confusing
Cost of the Cloud
By a slim margin, most respondents –39.4% – said the cloud was less
expensive than premise-based solutions, though it’s notable about onefifth think it’s more expensive. Still, 38.7% said they were unsure, which
indicates that pricing structures for cloud services in the legal sector are
service is being compared to, generally, cloud services relieve a law firm
from many IT burdens. For example hosted solutions eliminate the need
to buy and maintain hardware, such as servers, for the IT infrastructure
necessary to use premise-based solutions, and the IT staff with the
expertise to do so.
While it certainly depends on the which premise-based solution a cloud-
N = 279
Lawyers Describe the Cloud in their Own Words N = 254
Voice of the Attorney
In an open-ended question, we asked attorneys how they would describe
the cloud to peers who were unfamiliar with it.
The word-cloud analysis is representative of all 254 responses, and while
words like ―storage‖ are prominent, it’s interesting that some of the most
popular terms nearly form a sentence: ―ability to access your computer.‖
N = 254
The size of the words indicate how often respondents mentioned
these words in an open-ended question.
Survey Demographics and Methodology
This study aimed to understand the perceptions lawyers, working at
U.S.-based independent law firms, have of cloud technology and
services. The survey was conducted online from December 5 to
December 18, 2013. Respondents were required to identify as a
practicing attorney in a law firm that employs no more than 20 lawyers.
Two-hundred and seventy nine attorneys from across more than a dozen
different practice areas, and representing 44 different states, including
Washington, D.C. participated.
Download a Comprehensive Report on this Survey:
Business of Law Insights Report: Cloud Technology in the Legal Industry
Firm Manager Webinars:
Microsoft Word Shortcuts for Lawyers
8 Things Killing Your Law Firm—and How to Stop Them
Download Video: Soft Targets, Hard Truths - Protecting your Firm from Cyber Attacks
Firm Manager Case Studies:
Attorney Flies Solo—and Soars—with Online Practice Management (PDF)
Solo Attorney Johnathan Stone: Why I chose LexisNexis Firm Manager (PDF)
Matters of Practice Blog Posts:
4 Useful Studies that Help Law Firms Understand the Cloud
Research: Law Firms Warming Up to the Cloud
Join 500 Peers: LexisNexis Firm Manager on LinkedIn
Twitter: @LNFirmManager or @Business_of_Law
Facebook: LexisNexis Firm Manager or LexisNexis Business of Law